"Hey Black Child..."
Updated: Apr 3, 2021
This line comes from a poem by Countee Cullen that I learned during a summer enrichment program I attended at Southern University in grade school....the goal was to teach each of the participants words that would resonate and help our self esteem, self worth....I never forgot the poem and will periodically annoy my family by screaming it randomly.....
"Do you know who you are? Who you really are?"
Since we moved to Ohio, and since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been quite a challenge to connect to a community here. We have moved several times (even within the city of Columbus) and I, admittedly an introvert, struggle to restart over and over again socially. Initially, it's fun to have a chance to "start over" and reinvent yourself in a new place or a new town. But eventually, it just becomes WORK. And if it feels that way for me, I cannot imagine the impact that it has on my kids. They don't get to talk on the phone to friends or text. Play is the way to connect and they haven't been able to do that for about a year....
"Do you know you can be/ What you want to be/ If you try to be/ What you can be"
For my kids, I'm trying to motivate them during this time of CRAZINESS. There is little stability so I'm trying to anticipate what life will look like for them to prepare them for it! HARD STUFF! I'm trying to figure out what they love to do, and for my son, its just video games. Since the pandemic, "screen time" has increased tremendously in our home and video games have given him an escape --especially for his brilliant, preteen mind that is unstimulated by his current situations. "Mom, want to come watch me play ______?" Well, not really, but I want him to remain in this reality.
"Hey Black Child/ Do you know where your are going/where you're really going"
While the long term psychological effects of social isolation during the pandemic remain to be seen, I'm worried that traditional means of social interaction that is learned during this time is being sacrificed for our safety.
A New York Times article from 10 years ago discussed video games, teens and mental health problems, citing a "certain chronological progression: Young people who were more impulsive, more socially inept and less empathetic to begin with were more likely to become excessive video game players. Then, once they became what he terms pathological gamers, their grades were more likely to drop, and their relationships with their parents deteriorated. Two years later, they were more likely to suffer from depression, social phobias and anxiety than those who played video games less often."
UMMMMMM, NO. "I will not allow it, O!" in my MBaku voice.
"Do you know you can learn/What you want to learn/If you try to learn/What you can learn"
So, one intervention we've tried has been to slowly incorporate activities again, with safety protocols in place. The first activity was basketball. Me and Derek have had opposing viewpoints on when to involve Jackson in sports and to what degree. My motto is "go hard or go home," which is just me trying to anticipate other kids their age being introduced to sports and activities at a very early age and my kids not being exposed and having a hard time later on competing with those kids. To me, the embarrassment and exclusion of that outweighs any temporary discomfort and boredom they may feel at the present moment.
I try not to live in the land of "I told you so!" But people make it so hard..... Next up is baseball....
"Hey Black Child/Do you know you are strong/I mean really strong"
Video games are cool, because kids are mean.
I remember elementary school, and middle school and probably some of high school. Navigating all of the social landmines was not fun for me, so I can imagine that it's probably tough being the new kid. Kids are still learning manners and most of the time on the playground, there is no adult saying watching their every move and sending an "ahn AHN" every now and then, So it becomes more like the Wild Kingdom and less like Sesame Street. Animal instincts kick in and natural selection takes over.
Add in being a minority and BLECH, not a whole lot to look forward to. Being smart is great, but its not a motivator when you are 9. Feeling included and being a part of the group means more than an A on a test. I actually admire my kids for having made it this far without going nuts. Now, I am more intentional about trying to protect their peace.
"Do you know you can do/What you want to do/If you try to do/What you can do"
Hey, we are all trying to navigate this "new normal" I HATE THIS TERM BY THE WAY. Adults and kids alike are trying to survive and we don't know what the long term affects will be of this collective experience. But we do all have to keep trying. And keep trying.
Hey Black Child
Be what you can be
Learn what you must learn
Do what you can do
And tomorrow your nation
Will be what you want it to be"
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